Abigail's Art Wagon

A little girl with a big heart

Abigail’s Art Wagon provides art supplies for children at Shands at UF

By Mina Radman

Abigail Daugherty

She can’t remember the phrase “pay it forward,” so 6-year-old Abigail Daugherty tells people to “pay it frontwards.”

A kindergartner at First Christian Academy in High Springs, Abigail is a cheerleader and a Girl Scout, has a bright smile and endless energy but also suffers from functional antibody deficiency, a disorder in which the immune system does not work properly.

“As soon as we put her in day care at age 6 months, she stayed sick,” said Amy Daugherty, Abigail’s mom and a respiratory therapist at Shands at UF. “She would get a sniffle and the next day had pneumonia.”

For two years, Abigail received intravenous gammaglobulin infusions every two weeks, which allowed her to be in public settings and around large groups of children, Daugherty said. Abigail finished the treatments in March 2011.

In March 2010, doctors installed a port in her chest to help with her infusions. While in outpatient care, she realized she didn’t have anything to color with or on.

Child Life at Shands provides children in pediatric areas with arts and crafts, but there wasn’t much for kids to do at facilities such as the pulmonary lab and radiology room.

Abigail, then 4, wanted to help the other kids.

“It made a huge impression with her,” Daugherty said. “Initially she wanted to color pictures and bring it back to the kids who were still there when we left, and that idea converted into getting coloring books and crayons so every kid would always have something to color.”

The idea developed into Abigail’s Art Wagon, which has made six deliveries to Shands at UF and the pediatric specialty clinics at Shands Medical Plaza. Abigail’s two red wagons, donated by one of Daugherty’s coworkers and someone who saw the group’s Facebook page, were packed with crayons, markers, colored pencils, books and Play-Doh for each delivery.

“I like to give the coloring books and crayons because I like to color and draw,” Abigail said. “When I was in the hospital, they didn’t have anything for me to color, and it makes me feel good to collect (toys).”

Constance Keeton, director of volunteer services at Shands, said the donations have been helpful to the clinics.

“They truly appreciate having art materials to share with their patients who need something to do while waiting for appointments or doing treatments,” Keeton said. “It makes things easier for both patients and the staff.”

Items have been donated from people across Florida, Georgia and as far away as Washington. People in Jacksonville and Atlanta have adopted the idea of Abigail’s Art Wagon.

“A lot of us as adults take for granted that people don’t do nice things, but a child’s perspective is different,” Daugherty said. “She has faith that if she asks people for somebody to do something nice, they will, and because she has asked, they have.”

Since ending her infusions, Abigail has participated in sports and activities, and may grow out of her disorder as she grows up, her mother said.

“She’s flowering, loving life and essentially getting to be a normal kid,” Daugherty said.